Sunday, June 3, 2012

Rhythm of Nature

A hill of red cranberry beans.
Young squirrels are chattering in the silver maple, cavorting among branches and trunks in an energetic game of tag. A trio of chickadees fly clumsily from feeder to perch.  It is June and the time when the carefully tended young of spring are out exploring their new world. Young blackbirds follow their parents begging for food, and robbins trip about like gangly teenagers.

It is also when the garden takes, as you can by the hill of beans shown above.  The weather in my suburb is fine and the bugs aren't so annoying I can't enjoy sitting in the shade of my backyard this beautiful Sunday morning.  This is craftsteading at its finest and once I'm done writing, I'll bring my spinning wheel outside to finish up the chestnut alpaca singles.
Chestnut alpaca plied into fine yarn for weaving. This bobbin is now full.
Though I enjoy the gentle peace of my suburb, I do have a secret longing for the north woods.  I am reading John J. Rowlands' classic Cache Lake Country, Life in the North Woods.  It is jammed with interesting information about the rhythms of the North Country Wilderness, what is in season, how to build useful items like a level or canoe carry to a list of provisions to bring if you got it in your head to venture out in a canoe. This book was written in the 1940s and the sound advice and wood lore hasn't lost anything with age.  He writes it month to month, so you get the sense of the rhythm.  We lose a lot of the rhythm of life living in the extreme civilization we have today, so it is good to be reminded of the slow turning of the wheel of the seasons.

Tomatoes, peppers and basil in the new section of garden.
Rowlands even had a little garden in the North Woods, which trust me isn't as easy as my garden here in zone 5.  I've gardened in zone 4, and you can get a good crop, it's just you need to be on your toes as far as getting it in at the right time.  I've noticed people who live in the Rockies have greenhouses in their gardens.  

Knowing the rhythms of the year is essential for anyone who goes to the farmers market in an attempt to live locally and sustainably.  I'm sure you've all heard warnings about the "fake" non-local produce available. Understanding the rhythm of the seasons is how you tell the real local produce from the guy who buys pallets shipped from Mexico.  For instance, there should be no peppers or tomatoes at this time of year. They don't start until later in the summer.  The watermelons you see are likely from Mexico.  If we didn't have our huge global network of roads and farms, most of the foods we take for granted wouldn't be available.

The rich browns of these alpaca batts where lost in the camera flash, but you get some idea
Knowing the rhythms of nature allows you to appreciate her more.  We are so disconnected that we've forgotten that she is as cruel as she is benevolent, that death is just as much a part of her as life.  The other evening I watched the movie Into the Wild, based on Jon Krakauer's book about an idealistic young man who ventures into the Alaskan wilderness unprepared for its rigors. I wonder had John J. Rowland's book been on the young man's reading list, if he would have been better prepared. But then idealism is a strong motivator. Growing up in a society so disconnected with nature's dark side has a price once you venture to live at her mercy. The movie was extremely thought provoking, and now I want to read Krakauer's book.

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